Summary: Christian sexual ethics are oriented toward the long-term and contrary to society’s values and contrary to our fallen human natures.

Sexuality and Holiness

(I Thessalonians 4:1-8)

1. The Slavic peoples today populate several nations: the Czech Repulic, Slovakia, Poland, Belarus, Russia, Ukrania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia.

2. During Medieval times, the Slavic peoples were ready to convert to a "modern" religion. They were between three religions: Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Islam. The vast majority of Slavs chose either Catholicism or Orthodoxy because if they became Muslim, they would no longer be able to consume alcohol.

3. Although we are grateful that they did not choose Islam, we wish they had the alternative of Biblical Christianity to choose from.

4. But there is a lesson to learn: many people choose a religious faith not on the basis of their perception of truth, but on the basis of what accommodates them best.

5. Because of this, many people in our land turn away from the Lord because Biblical Christianity does not accommodate America’s new sexual ethic.

6. People want the freedom to engage in extra-marital sexual activity without a twinge of conscience -- or someone them of wrong-doing. The only thing they retain from Christianity is a partial quotation used out of context, "Judge not."

7. Sexual sin comes naturally. What is wrong to do before we are married is not only tolerable but very good within the context of marriage. Somehow, it just doesn’t seem right to many people that a marriage license should make a difference. But it does.

8. Hebrews 13:4, "Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous."

9. I Corinthians 7:2, "But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband."

10. Marriage ordained by God and recognized socially.

11. 73% of first-marriage couples remain together for life.

Couples who first live together and then marry are more prone to divorce.

Married couples have much better sex lives than sexually active singles.

12. Many discussion about sexual issues are done best in small or specialized groups, like marriage seminars or in a counseling context. Some of you are single or minors, others of you have been abused sexually, and yet others struggle with a sense of shame; some of you are very comfortable with the subject, others tense. Because of these limiting factors, we need to do justice to the text, but we will leave some of the applications of the text for you to sort out. The Bible does not go into graphic detail, so neither should we feel constrained to do so.

13. How difficult was sexual purity in the first century? Was it easy then? Commonplace?

The ancient writer Demosthenes expressed their view of sex: "We keep prostitutes for pleasure; we keep mistresses for the day to day needs of the body; we keep wives for the faithful guardianship of our homes."

14. In Rome, for the first five hundred and twenty years of the Republic, there had not been one single divorce; but now, under the Empire, as it has been put, divorce was a matter of caprice. As Seneca said, “Women were married to be divorced and divorced to be married.” In Rome the years were identified by the names of the consuls; but it was said that fashionable ladies identified the years by the names of their husbands. Juvenal quotes an instance of a woman who had eight husbands in five years. Morality was dead. [source:]

Main Idea: Christian sexual ethics are oriented toward the long-term and contrary to society’s values and contrary to our fallen human natures.

I. ASPIRE (1-2)

To aspire means, "To have a great ambition or ultimate goal; desire strongly; To strive toward an end"


"What the apostle really desires, therefore, is that the branches that bear fruit shall bear more fruit" (William Hendriksen).

They had come along way, but Paul wants them to go further down the road…

We tend to look at obedience or sin as black and white, right and wrong; and this is true, but there is another sense as well…. we grow in obedience as we obey at deeper levels…

outward conformity vs. inward motivations…

To glorify God is to please Him, and to please Him is to glorify Him; one automatically accomplishes the other…

B. To GROW in obedience

Why does Paul say, "By the authority of the Lord Jesus" (2b) and "he who rejects this instruction….rejects God…" in verse 8? Because he knows human nature. Gentiles who had been used to living with complete sexual freedom would find it easy to rationalize this teaching.

Webster on rationalize: " To devise self-satisfying but incorrect reasons for (one’s behavior)." We basically use creative reasoning to worm out of what we do not want to believe or practice.

Another alternative is to surrender to defeat, to admit we are not willing or are seemingly unable to obey God. The third alternative is to submit to God.

II. AVOID (3-6)

"sanctified" means to be set apart from sin and set apart for God

• it is both an event and a process

A. IMMORALITY in general (3-5)

1. “Keep away from” is apecho, “to hold back, keep off, be distant.” In the middle voice as used here, it means “to hold oneself from, avoid.”

• this tells us that avoiding immorality takes strategy on our part

• we must construct boundaries and precautions

• today’s Christian has more temptations -- technology, lack of good social inhibitions…

2. The Greek word ???????? "prostitution, fornication, unchastity" It is a broad word, and includes prostitution, pre and extra-marital sex, adultery, child molesting, and the practice of homosexual acts.

The word is used of sexual sin involving another person; the word translated "passionate lust" used in verse 5 includes individual sinful attitudes and involve us alone... lustful daydreams or pornography fit into this category. This lust may or may not result in us actually physically sinning with another; when Jesus taught us not to lust after someone to whom we were not married, I think He was trying to accomplish several things

• to put up a protective fence against immoral behavior

• to alert us that sin begins in the heart and to impress upon us the importance of checking it in our hearts…even if we do not act upon the thoughts we entertain, we still bear a level of guilt

• the 10th commandment warns us not to covet another’s spouse… when we start comparing, we are in trouble

3. One long-term alternative to immorality: sexual fulfillment in marriage

• it is not the only alternative; God’s will is for the single to be chaste

• marriage does not end ones sexual struggles

• self-control is still needed when married; marriage will provide an appropriate avenue for sexual expression, but it will not always fulfill all your sexual needs

4. How do I get this point from the text?

Vs. 4 is a difficult verse to translate. It could be translated as:

"…that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor…"

The KJV, New KJV, and Holman Christian Standard Bible all follow suit

NIV, ESV, and others translate it as:

"…that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable…" with a footnote reading, "Or learn to live with his own wife; or learn to acquire a wife."

These are not literal translations; the NASB is.

The Greek can be translated one of two ways

"to acquire his own vessel" or "to possess his own vessel."

The term vessel can refer to either a wife or one’s body… Both concepts are taught throughout the New Testament, so we are safe either way!

Turn to I Corinthians 7:1-5 and follow along with me

• I Corinthians 7:2, "But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband."

• Marriage carries with it both privelege and responsibility: the privelege of sexual enjoyment and the responsibility to seek to please one’s spouse within reason

Galatians 5:22-23…."But the fruit of the Spirit is….self-control."

I think the best interpretation is that it means to acquire a wife.

5. God holds us to a higher standard than He does lost people (note vs. 5)

B. ADULTERY in particular (6a)

The word for immorality includes adultery, and adultery has many consequences.

David Guzik points out: " When we are sexually immoral, we take advantage of and defraud others and we cheat them in greater ways than we can imagine. The adulterer defrauds his mate and children. The fornicator defrauds his future mate and children, and both defraud their illicit partner."

C. MINIMIZING the nature of this sin (6b)


A. God’s CALL (7a)

Our primary focus should be positive -- answering God’s call…

B. God’s MANDATE (8a)

God wants us to be clear: this is not Paul’s opinion, this is the Word of God

C. Your RESPONSIBILITY hosting The Holy Spirit (8b)

1. One hard fact for each of us to face is that we are hosts for the Holy Spirit

2. When we have guests over, we have a certain responsibility to them; we have to clean the house (somewhat), plan some meals --- it takes effort; the Holy Spirit is our permanent, live-in guest…He likes a clean house and planned activities that please Him…


1. Married couples must work harder at their marriages than previous generations … neglecting ones spouse is more dangerous today than ever.

2. Men need to fellowship and talk with other men.

3. We need to watch what we watch.

4. Our youth need to learn to be social and to socialize with friends who have good values.

5. We need to set age limits and regulate dating.

6. We need to teach our youth to avoid vulnerable situations.

7. We need to teach adults to avoid vulnerable situations. Rule number one: be careful becoming friends with needy people of the opposite gender.